(From Aug. 3, 2013) The Joplin Globe has posted its promised examination the teacher turnover problem in the Joplin R-8 School District, and as you might have expected, it was a whitewash.
First, the numbers given to the Globe by school administrators seem to be at odds with what a simple head count of teachers who have left this year and comparisons on the DESE website from last year. Hopefully, the Globe reporter had the intelligence to simply ask for a list of teachers from the upcoming year and each of the past two and then made a simple comparison. I seriously doubt, however, that anything like that happened.
Then reporter Scott Meeker called all of the usual suspects- somebody from NEA, somebody from MSTA, C. J. Huff, and a retired teacher who apparently was not pushed out by C. J. Huff or Angie Besendorfer and was happy to say good things about the district.
What is missing, likely because the Globe is not a highly trusted media source by school employees, are quotes from any people below administration level who are still working at the school or anyone besides the one teacher who retired.
How in the world do you expect to find out why the turnover is high if you are not talking to the people who left?
As usual, in the days since Michael Beatty became publisher of the Joplin Globe, the story is designed to make it seem that everything is OK in the Joplin R-8 School District, just as it was at Missouri Southern State University during the Bruce Speck era.
As you might expect, C. J. Huff is not at a loss to explain why so many people are getting out of Dodge and leaving him and Besendorfer to their 21st Century education:
(Huff) said Joplin teachers have left their jobs for a variety of reasons, including the economic downturn.
“The economy really hurt us to a degree,” he said. “We saw people losing jobs here locally. Spouses sometimes had a job that paid more and had to do a job search and then move. But there were also teachers who wanted to try something different.”
He also noted that despite the rise in Joplin’s turnover rate, the number is still below the state and national averages.
Regarding issues raised by teachers who have resigned, Huff said the new classroom reality isn’t always a good fit for every teacher.
“We work really hard to retain our staff, and retention is a big part of our strategic plan,” he said. “But we also have an obligation to our families and children to measure and monitor progress toward meeting our expectations. When we hire teachers in Joplin, they have two years, three tops, to demonstrate they have the skills, attitude and belief system that matches ours to get the job done.
“If they’re not able to do that, there is an evaluation system. If they feel the need to leave or find another district that is a better fit for them, that’s OK. I have no problem with that.”
It is a shame the same evaluation system is not applied to R-8 administrators.